Bursting with humour and wit, Olana Janfa’s sharp satirical powers translate into beautiful murals

Melbourne-based Olana isn't concerned about technical ‘perfection’ so much as he is about a cultural commentary.

6 February 2023


Olana Janfa is an artist well travelled. Originally from Ethiopia, then moving to Norway and finally settling in Melbourne, the expanse of the globe Olana has travelled most likely informs his colourful outlook on life. “A lot of what I express through my work is about culture, identity, race, privilege, access and belonging, all based on my life experiences,” he tells It’s Nice That.

He’s also entirely self-taught, too. “I never learned any kind of art at school in Ethiopia, so I only recently found out that red and yellow makes orange, which is pretty funny for most Western people but understandable if you’ve grown up in Africa,” he explains. Being self-taught has never stopped Olana’s talent from flourishing, either. Now, he’s doing large-scale mural work and book illustration, as well as a whole host of other projects in the pipeline.

In the studio, Olana’s working with a mix of acrylic and oil paint, “mostly on timber offcuts, old furniture parts and reclaimed boards”, he explains. For Olana, stretched canvas was simply too “boring”, and he pivots to things that aren’t perfect. It ties well into the themes of his work. “I’ve always used humour as a way to connect with people, so while some of my work looks at stuff like inequality, I like to do it in a way that makes people laugh first and think second,” he says. “A lot of different people like my work but if other migrants and Black people can recognise themselves in my art – especially if, like me, they feel that most art is not made for them – that makes me happy.”

GalleryCopyright © Olana Janfa, 2023

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Copyright © Olana Janfa, 2023

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About the Author

Joey Levenson

Joey is a freelance design, arts and culture writer based in London. They were part of the It’s Nice That team as editorial assistant in 2021, after graduating from King’s College, London. Previously, Joey worked as a writer for numerous fashion and art publications, such as HERO Magazine, Dazed, and Candy Transversal.

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